-131 #3 Alistair Overeem (14-15) vs. +111 #8 Mark Hunt (12-11-1)
Alistair Overeem: “The Reem” came uber close to choking out Stipe Miocic at UFC 203, but was ultimately stopped due to ground strikes with only :27 left in the first round. Alistair nearly added the UFC belt to his extensive collection that includes the Strikeforce, Dream and K-1 heavyweight titles. If he is able to add the UFC strap to his resume before he calls it quits you have to put him up there with the greatest martial artists of all time.
Overeem takes this rematch with the number eight ranked Hunt knowing that a loss may put another title shot out of reach. 36 with a lot of highway miles Overeem still has the ability to beat anyone on the planet demonstrated by his four fight win streak before the Miocic loss. If he is victorious in this fight, a match up with a hungry contender like Francis Ngannou or Derrick Lewis will most likely be waiting on the other side.
Mark Hunt: The last time we saw “Super Samoan” Mark Hunt he was livid about his UFC 200 opponent Brock Lesnar testing positive for a performance enhancing substance. Hunt was held down by Lesnar for three rounds en route to a lackluster decision loss. However after the banned substance was identified Lesanr was striped of the win and the bout was declared a no contest.
The King of the walk off knockout will be looking to avenge a 2008 Dream loss to Overeem and barge his way back into the division’s top five. They say power is the last thing to go, but in 42 year old Hunt’s case his power has seemingly increased with age. Win or lose Hunt will still have a few big money fights left in his career, Saturday night we will find out if those fights will have title implications or not.
The Fight: I anticipate Overeem to fight a smart fight and chose not to stand for long periods of time with Hunt. He will implement multiple take downs into his attack, keeping Hunt off balance while avoiding haymakers en route to a win on the cards. Overeem Unanimous Decision
-380 Lando Vannata (9-1) vs. +315 David Teymur (5-1)
Lando Vannata: Jackson/Wink can’t miss prospect “Groovy” Lando Vannata made a strong case for knockout of the year in his last fight. Vannata knocked out striking specialist John Makdesi with a wheel kick that left the pro-Makdesi Canadian crowd stunned. Vannata got his foot in the door with a short notice co-main event war against Tony Ferguson in which he came up short but put on a fight of the night performance that left fans clamoring for more.
Vannata has a creative, flowy striking style reminiscent of his good friend and training partner Cub Swanson. He is also a BJJ purple belt and has a DI wrestling background despite not showing any grappling in the octagon yet. Vannata’s unorthodox fan friendly fighting style and groovy personal style make this 24 year old one of the brightest young stars in the sport.
David Teymur: 4x Swedish Muay Thai champion David Teymur recently picked up his second UFC victory finishing newcomer Jason Novelli with a straight left that opened up a large cut on the Alaskan’s nose, followed by a right hook that dropped Novelli and forced Herb Dean to step in.
Teymur’s striking is already world class and his training at Sweeden’s Allstars Training Center with high level grapplers like Reza Madadi, Ilir Latifi and Alexander Gustafsson will round out his skill set and make the 27 year old Swede a dreadful match up for any Lightweight contender.
The Fight: Teymur is the superior technical striker, but Vannata is such a wild card that he may chose to stand and trade with the TUF 22 alum. Based on the Makdessi fight, striking might not be a bad strategy for Vannata, but his safest path to victory is to work take downs in to the striking exchanges and expose Teymur’s lack of ground skills. Vannata Rear Naked Choke 2nd
-225 Rashad Evans (24-5-1) vs. +190 Dan Kelly (12-1)
Rashad Evans: Former Light Heavyweight champion “Suga” Rashad Evans has not not been victorious in the UFC octagon since his 2013 knockout of Chael Sonnen. He lost a few iffy decisions to Ryan Bader and Rogerio Nogueria, but his last loss was a devastating knockout at the hands of Glover Teixeira.
This will be Rashad’s Middleweight debut, he’s dropping to 185 after putting together one of the greatest Light Heavyweight careers in the history of the sport. The cut will give Evans an unfamiliar strength advantage over his opponents and if his cardio holds up the 37 year old will be a serious contender in the Middleweight division. Kelly is the perfect candidate to test Evans at his new weight class.
Dan Kelly: Australian Olympian Judoka Daniel Kelly pleased the partisan Melbourne crowd with his last victory over Chris Camozzi this past April. The victory advanced his current winning streak to three and earned him this marquee co-main event match up. The TUF Nations vet has over shot everyone’s expectations since the end of the reality show. The “dad bod” sporting Kelly has won five of his six bouts and established himself as a contender in the Middleweight division.
At 39 Kelly has received the opportunity of a lifetime and a victory would mean a top 15 ranking and may be the start of an unprecedented late in life title run for the gritty Australian. Kelly’s world class Judo may prove a problem for many of today’s athletes that often lack mastery of one art form.
The Fight: Kelly is a certified tough dude, but this is going to be a skill differential that he will not be able to overcome. Rashad will do heavy damage on the feet and get the stoppage with ground strikes due to accumulation of damage. Evans TKO 1st
+127 C Tyron Woodly (16-3-1) vs. -147 #1 Stephen Thompson (13-1-1)
Welterweight Title Fight (170)
Tyron Woodley: Still Reigning Welterweight champion “The Chosen One” Tyron Woodley retained his belt the first time these two met but it was far from a blow out. Woodley had the brighter spots in the fight dropping Thompson twice and nearly finishing him in the fourth, but his timed explosion’s left him inactive for a good portion of the fight and their instant classic war ended in a anti climatic majority draw.
If Woodley can get by Wonderboy there is a plethora of big fights that may await him. Demian Maia was next in line but he recently signed to fight Jorge Masvidal in May, a fight that is far from a gimme for the BJJ legend. If Masvidal can beat Maia he should get the next shot and it goes with out saying that Maia would get the title fight with a victory. However the return of GSP and the pending return of Nick Diaz prevent the Maia vs. Masvidal fight from being considered an official number one contender fight.
Stephen Thompson: South Carolinian Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson was not able to take the belt home in the first fight, but he proved to be a worthy contender for Woodley’s title. Thompson won at least two of the rounds and a strong case can be made for three.He used his Karate movements to dart in and out picking apart the champ from the outside. However he ate a few hard shots that changed the entire fight.
Thompson showed he has the tools to win this fight, he has the advantage in speed, striking technique and striking variety. If he can open up with his hands and limit the amount of kicks he will give himself the best chance to stay on his feet and pick Woodley apart while staying out of the danger zone.
The Fight: Woodley dominated round one of the first fight when he was able to catch a Thompson low kick, secure the take down and unload with ground and pound. For what ever reason from the second round on Woodley chose to stand and trade with the world class Sport Karate fighter and still almost won. If he commits to take downs Woodley will stop this one with in the five rounds. Woodley TKO 4th